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In a speech today at Fresno State University, John McCain proposed a $300 million government prize for the development of an alternative car battery. He called for a more efficient and affordable battery than those currently powering our hybrid vehicles, saying the reward would be "a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency."

So are cash prizes and crowdsourcing actually effective means of inspiring innovative solutions to intractable problems? What's the real return on a cash reward? And if the prize were big enough, could you buy yourself a new technology as major as the Internet? Fast Company staff writer Anya Kamenetz tackled these and other questions in the May issue. Read her story, "The Power of the Prize," here.